The Boston Phoenix
March 4 - 11, 1999

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Unusual Latin cooking in the South End

On the Cheap by Jason Weinzimer

In a gently lit storefront spot adjacent to the South End's Villa Victoria complex, Botucatu offers up home-style cooking from Central America, Brazil, and Peru that's stick-to-your-ribs comfy. Brightly spiced stews with heaping plates of rice and beans are hearty and complex, with unusual vegetables and spices -- perfect for a clientele that seems to be looking either for a taste of home or for something new.

Seco de cordero ($9.50), a stew of butter-soft lamb and vegetables, comes in a wonderfully intriguing dark beer- cilantro sauce that proves a fine accent for the rice and beans. Chicken Xim Xim ($8.95), cooked in a fragrant mix of bell peppers, tomatoes, and peanuts, has a coconut edge that hints of the Caribbean. Unexpected tastes and textures are evident throughout -- even a fried-pork appetizer of chicharrones ($4.95), delicious dipped in the homemade hot sauce, comes with a heady Andean hominy.

As is typical south of the border, chilis are added by the diner, not the cook, so wine with your meal is not out of the question. And the list is very reasonable; a fine Australian shiraz is only $11.95. As for dessert, while the flan is fine, regulars will tell you not to miss the extraordinary caramel pudding. Sweet, creamy, and made from condensed milk, it comes with a salty hunk of cheese to balance the palate.

Botucatu, located at 57 West Dedham Street, in Boston, is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Sunday from 3 to 10 p.m. Call (617) 247-9249.

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